16 June 2017

Killin' time with The Good Book and other half-thoughts

Dear diary,

How surely are the dead beyond death. Death is what the living carry with them. A state of dread, like some uncanny foretaste of a bitter memory. But the dead do not remember and nothingness is not a curse. Far from it.

Those words are from Cormac McCarthy's novel Suttree. They remind me of Whitman's "Has any one supposed it lucky to be born? / I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it." ("Song of Myself," sec. 7) I'm using this quote to get me started, although I'm not commenting on it or adding to its thought in any way. I admire it, but I'm ignoring it. For I'm preoccupied:

Again I find myself trying to speed the pace of the minutes, because I'm dying to view the conclusion to The Putin Interviews, Oliver Stone's latest film, which is airing on the small screen as I type this (I am not a paid employee of Mr. Stone: I just love the concept, the content, and the execution of his new movie; and when you're in love, you must inform yourself via your weblog, lest you forget how intensely you once embraced the inferno of art) (by the way, when I use the phrase "airing on the small screen," I mean that the composition is being distributed by a cable network, or that it is streaming online, as opposed to "now showing on the BIG SCREEN" also known as "the silver screen," which means that the movie is being exhibited in a theatre near you, upon a blank surface that fills the entire venue, by way of a projector that casts a beam of light through a strip of film); but, as I explained in my equally preoccupied post from yestereven, my sweetheart insists that I wait for her to finish teaching the glockenspiel, so that we (she and I; not her students) may watch the show together. And she isn't scheduled to come home for more than an hour...

So here I am, writing another stupid blog; and the first law of writing a stupid blog is that it must be accompanied by a pic, also preferably stupid. Now, as I've whined in recent entries, I'm fresh out of pics (even stupid ones)—the well's dry, the chamber's empty, the void is formless—so I'm obliged to improvise, and since I still haven't spent that damn B&N gift card, moreover since it is here sitting on the table right in front of me, as I brainstorm about what to use for an obligatory image, I decided to photograph IT. Give IT its rightful fifteen hours of fame. (It's minutes for mortals, hours for gift cards.) Earlier today I noted down a title in block letters on a scrap of paper, which I affixed by tape to the card, as a self-reminder to purchase the book Hebdomeros, by Giorgio de Chirico, because, as a poetic marvel, it's well worth owning. The other books I want are listed in my June 7 entry, "Two quotes and three blahs"; also, for anyone interested in deducing the abnormalities of my personality from studying my handwriting, I engraved those same titles beneath the card's lawyerly lovenote (the so-called fine print) in the image that disfigures my June 10 post, "Mostly bung'd by TP".

But all of the above is just introductory material. Now I will start this evening's blog post proper:

Why should we say that God made the very first human perfect but that that human fell into baseness and thereafter humankind has been getting worse and worse? Why not say instead that the first human was barely even passable but that, over the centuries, humankind has been improving steadily and will soon, if we don't give up, surpass God's perfection?

Now let me quote a Bible passage, to bring me back down to misery.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

That's Exodus 20:4 in the King James translation; the words are attributed to a character titled 'God'. Why does this God give such a command to his people? Why is he against representative art? Is all art magic, and is all magic bad? Do creative actions radiate voodoo force? (And isn't voodoo force greatly to be desired?) If you were a jealous God, what type of production would you prohibit? Yet, as the author of the world and all of its ways, why not simply render such acts impossible? It is because you only value the love of free-roaming chickens? Do you really consider that a life pent up inside decaying flesh is at liberty? Add Genesis 1:26 to the above: "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," and then God said to this image: "Thou shalt not make any likeness..."

Birds are things in the heaven above: don't depict them. Saints are things in the earth beneath: don't depict them. And the rainbow trout is a species of salmonid native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America (amount of calories per eighty-gram fillet = 111): don't depict them.

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.

That's verses 18 & 19. The people's reaction is recorded here, but is it condoned therefore?—is it sanctioned because it is noted? Would it really kill you to hear God speak directly? I'm not a fan of priests, of intermediaries for the divine; so I prefer to take the people's reaction to the LORD God's histrionics as understandable but mistaken.

And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

I've heard it said that God is love, that God is light. Yet here verse 21 has God residing in "thick darkness," and I presume he's fueled by hatred. I enjoy this type of God (for a storybook, that is: not for real life)—he's the type of fiend the populace would throw corpses to, in hopes of satisfying his appetite so that he falls asleep gorged and thus leaves off haunting your city.

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings...

These words and the following end the chapter; however, I beg myself to permit myself to share two definitions before copying more quotes. Trousers are "an item of clothing worn from the waist to the ankles, covering both legs separately (rather than with cloth extending across the legs as in robes, skirts, and dresses)." It's my understanding that, because trouser legs had not yet grown fashionable in the culture of so-called biblical times, priests from that age wore something like kilts; which is why males were always being warned to "Gird up your loins!!!!!!!" (Pardon the excessive punctuation; I was imagining that God himself was attacking us.) Also I cannot resist sharing this explanation of the comparatively recent coinage upskirt, from an online dictionary: "(of a photo or video) taken surreptitiously from an angle that allows a viewer to see up a person's dress."

Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon. (20:26)

I'm tired of mocking Exodus now, or at least this part of it: I hate the law, commandments, statutes, decrees, ordinances... I only like free-form writing, freestyle raps, freethinking prophets... So I'll move on to some other yawn-fest. But, before I go, I'll quote just one more verse (22:28), because I've always found it curious, and I wish that churches would blow smoke about it the way that they do with other biblical commandments:

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

It strikes me as funny that no voice among the committee of King James' Bible translators objected to the phrase "the gods" in this rendering; or that, if anyone did, such a motion was overturned. Yet perhaps a veto was granted, even unanimously, and then they all simply forgot to make the change.

I'd love to see behind-the-scenes documentary footage—big screen or small—of the King James Bible translation: I mean the process that resulted in the text of the 1611 version. I'd like to know how that went: Were there many arguments? How about jokes, levity? Was it all strictly white-wig serious?

(This last topic interests me because the church that I used to attend considered the K.J.B. to be not only decent and accurate but the only English translation inspired by God.)

I got a haircut today, just so you know. I'm trying to think of ways to keep the moments rolling along; my sweetheart isn't home yet, and I'm getting antsy.

Somewhere among his books, Nietzsche speaks of the concept of "dying at the right time." I've probably given a reaction to it here before, or at least mentioned it – it's one of those things that I obsess about continually. To die too early; to die too late; to die at the right time. This present entry is taking way too long to die. Yesterday's entry died too young: all I could do is get out a thought about D.J.T. and one about H.R.C., and then my soul-mate materialized. So maybe it's good that this post is stubbornly refusing to conclude, since I wanted to explain what I was attempting to do by mentioning those two politicians. I only wanted to talk about them as humans, without offering excessively negative criticism. Pity the billionaires, just to be different. I don't think I succeeded, but I'll blame my shortcomings on the hasty nature of this medium. It's always someone else's fault. (Darned foreign sovereigns.)

But seriously, I think we here in the U.S. give individual celebrities too much attention. Ideas, constructs of the mind should get more respect.

I hate catching myself having said the word should. Who am I to tell anyone what to do? My old Heavenly Father used to thunder and shout "Thou shalt..." Ever since I left his cult, I swore I'd never bark a command at anyone. Now look at me: up on a mountain all my own, threatening to break forth. "Know that after Christs death, he became Jehovah." —That's from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake.

People still engage in heated arguments about God without ever having defined that term, can you believe it? The same goes for art. X says that Y cannot be art. OK, so what? I'm interested in Y; even though X says it's N, and J thinks it's bad, and P calls it God. I don't say "Who cares what other people think!" because I care deeply what everyone thinks; but I have no problem living among dissenters and holding my own views. Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it...

Yay! hooray! my front door just opened: She's finally home!

Here lies a blog post that croaked at 9 o'clock.

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